What is the future of the Jewish people?
In Arguments for the Sake of Heaven, Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi Elect of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth, explores the contemporary issues that are influencing Judaism and the controversies that are affecting its destiny.
In recent years, a number of tensions have threatened to create rifts within the Jewish world.
The issues of conversion and the question of “Who is a Jew?” have produced a schism between Orthodoxy and Reform.
Religious and secular Jews in Israel have clashed.
The relationship between Orthodox and liberal Jews, as well as between Israel and the diaspora, has become strained.
How have these conflicts arisen?
What events and influences have caused Jewish identity to be interpreted in such different and distinct ways?
Most importantly, how will these diverse visions affect Judaism in the coming decades?
Arguments for the Sake of Heaven explores these issues by tracing the historical background of modern Jewish identities and by examining today’s Jewish communities in the United States, England and Israel.
Sacks proposes that in order to achieve Jewish unity, there must be “a candid acknowledgement of what divides Jews and an attempt to locate those divisions within the framework of tradition.”
Judaism, he states, celebrates argument as “perhaps the highest… form of religious expression… It was in argument that the word of God became real in the life of man… that the covenant was continued into the present and future… that divergent viewpoints were bought into relationship with one another.”
If the Jewish world is to be mended, Sacks contends, then Jews must move beyond sectional thinking and recognise alternatives within Judaism.
The tradition of argument requires respect for positions with which one doesn’t agree; rabbinic texts imply these same values.
It is in this spirit of healing that Jewish unity will be achieved.
“Tradition speaks with many voices and is enacted in many kinds of lives,” writes the author. “It lives precisely in the extended argument over what it is to be a Jew.
To see this is already to have begun the transition from Torah as the faith of some Jews to Torah as the constitution of the whole Jewish people.”